Author’s Note: I’d like to apologize for any mistreatment and/or agony caused by the profuse usage of capital letters during Sergeant Gunnery’s boot camp tirade. Sadly, the Sarge couldn’t make it today because he is now a semi-permanent fixture on my garage ceiling — courtesy of eight rolls of duct tape. Hoo-ah.
If there were a scientific method for measuring and ranking all the things that suck in this world, car shopping would probably fall somewhere between getting shot in the groin with a potato-launcher, and dealing with a bout of moderate to severe Seafood Poisoning.
Unfortunately, owning a car is a necessity for people like me, and every few years I find myself in the same pinch at the local motor mall.
Looking for a car isn’t the hard part. In essence, it’s actually not all that different from putting a fridge on layaway. The part that makes it less desirable than a spud to the hangers is when any of the following semi-fictional bullshit-artists enter the equation:
- Jerry Flannigan aka “The Dice Man”
- Ron Wystromski aka “Big Cheddar”
- Dick McGiven aka “The Shark”
- Ed O’Mallory aka “Fast Eddie”
From that point on it’s nothing but a high-pressure hassle.
Walking through a car dealership is like hiking through the desert with a piece of rotting meat tied to your back. From the moment I pull into a lot, there’s always some greasy sales buzzard wanting to shake my hand before I can put my foot on the blacktop. After introductions, I’m getting forcefully shoved past the econo-car section of the lot, and tossed into a pile of Corvettes, Cadillacs and Monster Trucks.
Meanwhile, there sits a tiny, imaginary man in my head, behind a xylophone, frantically playing an ambiguous tune. It’s a circus melody that perfectly captures the stress and confusion of the moment.
Many people feel the same way about the whole experience as I do. However, they go about preparing for it the wrong way. Most folks look to generic buying guides like Consumer Reports or the Suze Orman Show for tips and strategies on how to buy a car. This advice is shoddy, at best. Neither of these pop-resources highlight that being approached by a haggling salesman is an Act of War.
If you wanna avoid the runaround and get the most bang for your buck, car shopping requires a tactical, military-like approach. Hopefully you’ve already completed Tuesday’s Basic Training. You’re gonna need it.
Let me break it down by operation.
Operation 1: Reconnaissance
Begin by surveying the dealership for a few days with a pair of binoculars from across the street. Behind a bush. Determine which day is staffed with the fewest amount of Sales Pests. Identify a breach area. Keep a log sheet of your observations. Take pictures if you can, and carry an infrared lens.
Operation 2: Infiltrate the Enemy Establishment
After the surveillance operation, enter the lot at the identified breach area, and park as far away from the sales office as possible. Stealth is key. Use the vehicles in the lot to shield yourself. Stay low to the ground. Remember to camouflage: sweat pants and a dirty T-shirt with a Budweiser logo on it. You’ll be hard to spot if you look poor.
Operation 3: Create a Tactical Diversion
You will eventually be targeted. Remain calm. The key at this stage is to create a Tactical Diversion that will delay and/or weaken the offensive strategy of the oncoming insurgent. Note: the following tactics are battle-tested, but may lead to a brief jail stint if executed poorly.
Choose from the following list of Diversions based on your scenario:
- Parking Lot Tag – When the Sales Pest has captured you for introductions, immediately initiate a game of parking lot tag by firmly tapping him on the chest and yelling out:”Tag, you’re it!” If he doesn’t give chase, insult his mother.
- Cops and Robbers (or Cowboys and Indians) – This tactic is also childish. But who gives a fuck. Integrate a lot of somersaults and barrel rolls on the pavement into your evasive routine.
- Panic Button Hand Grenade – Request a set of keys for a vehicle. Once you receive the keypad, hit the panic alarm button and launch it grenade-style deep within the enemy compound.
- No Speaky English – If you’re not confident in executing any of the above tactics, use language as a sales barrier.
Operation 4: Identify Target Vehicle
While your Sales Pest is trying to catch his breath, and/or bent over a car, puking his lungs out, survey the enemy compound and identify the target vehicle for a test drive. Make sure it’s a Ford. And make sure it’s not Gold or Burgundy.
Operation 5: Highway Storm
After you’ve targeted a vehicle to test drive, request the keys. Bring your Salesperson. If he politely declines, try softening him up by applying reverse sales tactics: place your hand on his shoulder and ask about his beer league softball career.
After he’s in the vehicle and buckled up, put the pedal to the metal. Really open up the engine during your test drive. Do things to the target vehicle that you wouldn’t do with your current vehicle; brake torquing, neutral slamming, red-lining – get a feel for the beast.
If the salesman shits the seat, Abort Mission.
Operation 6: Negotiate Hostage Situation
At this stage, a hostage situation could mean one of two things:
1.). You’ve landed yourself in the sales office and are negotiating the price of a car.
2.). You’ve landed yourself in jail and are negotiating the terms of your release with a lawyer through a piece of bulletproof glass.
We’ll concentrate on the first one.
This is your opportunity to put the hammer down. At this point, the enemy should be showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress. Use these symptoms to your advantage. Make a lot of sudden, jerky movements, and drop things on the floor, like a stapler, to create loud noises. If that doesn’t work, try a computer monitor. This will keep the enemy in a vulnerable, defensive state of mind.
If executed properly, he’ll do whatever it takes to get you the fuck out of his office. When he’s cowering, immediately submit a low-ball offer on the Target Vehicle. Hold eye contact. After he prints a contract at the newly negotiated (low-ball) price, illegibly sign on the dotted line. Do not shake hands, and do not turn your back to him while exiting the cell. Before fully carrying out your exit plan, bark. Like a dog. Do it with passion and fury.
While he’s under the desk, make your break at full sprint.
Eat my Pants, Suze Orman.
What’s the battle plan when you go car shopping? Please share your funny stories!
-Happy Blogging, Private First Class \m/
- Car salesman brothers guilty of fraud (modbee.com)
- Bucks Blog: What I Learned the Hard Way About Leasing a Car (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)